Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Yashana Spruill and against Angela Tyler only on liability, holding that the trial court erred in admitting certain medical records, but the error was harmless. Spruill was a passenger in Tyler's vehicle when it was involved in an accident with a vehicle driven by Brendon Garcia. Spruill sued Tyler and Garcia seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly resulting from the accident. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Spruill against Tyler only on liability and awarded $0 in damages. Spruill appealed, arguing that her medical records were improperly admitted into evidence because they had not been properly authenticated and were inadmissible hearsay. The Supreme Court held (1) as to the admission of the medical records, neither the requirements of the authentication statute nor Va. R. Evid. 2:308(6) were satisfied; but (2) in the unique context of this case, the admission of the medical records was harmless error. View "Spruill v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
In this case involving the revocation of two suspended sentences, one for a felony and the other for a misdemeanor, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court revoking and re-suspending the remaining portions of Defendant's sentences, holding that the trial court could revoke and re-suspend Defendant's felony sentence but erred in doing the same for Defendant's misdemeanor conviction. Defendant's original sentencing order imposed suspended sentences for his offenses, placed Defendant on supervised probation and contained an express condition that Defendant be of good behavior. A subsequent probation revocation order concerning the same offenses did not contain an express good behavior requirement. After Defendant was discharged from probation, the trial court issued a show-cause order based on new felony convictions. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the later probation revocation order superseded the original sentencing order. The trial court rejected the argument. The Supreme Court held (1) the later order, by failing to mention a requirement of good behavior, did not eliminate that requirement altogether; and (2) by operation of Va. Code 19.2-306, Defendant could not have the misdemeanor portion of his suspended sentence revoked following an order to show cause that was issued after the one-year period of suspension had ended. View "Burnham v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court that denied a request to retroactively modify a pendente lite spousal support award, holding that the circuit court has authority to retroactively modify a pendente lite spousal support award and that the circuit court here abused its discretion in its consideration of the motion to reconsider the pendente lite spousal support award and resulting arrearage that it initially awarded in this case. Kathryn Tawes filed a complaint for divorce against James Everett and filed a motion for temporary spousal support, moving for a pendente lite hearing on the matter. The circuit court entered a pendente lite order. In the final divorce decree the circuit court ordered Everett to pay spousal support, declined to modify the pendente lite order retroactively, and ordered Everett to pay pendente lite spousal support arrearage. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in refusing to reconsider modifying the pendente lite spousal support award amount. View "Everett v. Tawes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against home builder gravestone Homes, Inc. seeking tort and contract remedies after mold developed in a new home, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing negligent-repair claims and contract claims. George and Crystal Tingler entered into a construction contract with Graystone to construct a new home on property owned by a family-run company, Belle Meade Farm, LLC. After the house was built, rain water leaked into the house, and mold developed. Graystone tried unsuccessfully to remediate the mold. The Tinglers and their children subsequently abandoned the home and sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for roperty damage, personal injuries, and economic losses. The Tinglers and Belle Meade separately sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for economic losses and property damage. The circuit court dismissed all claims in each of the complaints. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court erred (1) in dismissing the negligent-repair counts in the Tingler family's personal injury complaints and the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint; and (2) in dismissing the contract claims and contractual claims in the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint. View "Tingler v. Graystone Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this tax assessment dispute the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the trial court's judgments in two cases consolidated for trial, holding that a real estate appraiser need not be licensed in Virginia to offer expert testimony in a tax assessment dispute and that the taxpayer failed to meet its burden of proving that the assessment overvalued the subject property. Virginia International Gateway, Inc.'s (VIG) believed the assessments for its real and personal property were above fair market value and filed separate applications to correct the 2015-16 real estate and personal property assessments. At trial, VIG offered expert testimony to support its position that the actual fair market value of the real property was lower than the City of Portsmouth's assessment. The trial court did not recognize the appraiser as an expert because he lacked Virginia licensure at the time of trial. The trial court ultimately dismissed both of VIG's applications. The Supreme Court reversed the real estate case but affirmed the personal property case, holding (1) the trial court's exclusion of the appraiser's testimony was an abuse of discretion; but (2) the trial court did not err in ruling that VIG failed to overcome the presumption of the personal property assessment's correctness. View "Virginia International Gateway v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part in part and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's convictions and affirming the restitution award, holding that that the restitution award was improperly calculated. Defendant was convicted of two counts of welfare fraud for obtaining assistance or benefits to which she was not entitled during two periods. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to six years' imprisonment with six years suspended and ordered Defendant to pay restitution of $3,436.14, which was the total amount of overpayments in benefits received under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and fuel assistance. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the convictions; but (2) vacated the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the restitution award, holding that the restitution award was based on the Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services' improper calculation of overpayments in SNAP benefits. View "Jefferson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In this action brought by Radiance Capital Receivables Fourteen, LLC seeking to collect the principal due on a promissory note the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court sustaining Defendants' plea in bar based on the statute of limitations and dismissing Radiance Capital's complaint with prejudice, holding that Defendants were not estopped from pleading the statute of limitations. Foster and Wilson Building, LLC (the Company) executed a promissory note, and Robert Foster and James Wilson executed a continuing guaranty agreement guaranteeing to pay the Company's debt. In the guaranty, Foster and Wilson agreed to waive the benefit of any statute of limitations or other defenses affecting the guarantor's liability under the agreement. After the Company defaulted on the promissory note, Radiance Capital, the holder of the promissory note and guaranty, brought suit against Foster and Wilson seeking to collect the principal due on the note, interest, and attorney's fees. Foster and Wilson, in turn, argued that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The circuit court concluded that the contractual waiver of the statute of limitations defense was not valid and dismissed Radiance Capital's complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the waiver was neither valid nor enforceable under Virginia law. View "Radiance Capital Receivables Fourteen, LLC v. Foster" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court entering final judgment against a nursing home arising from actions taken by a nursing assistant at the nursing home, holding that it was impossible for the trial court to reach its conclusion based on the limited evidence presented at a plea-in-bar hearing. The nursing assistant in this case molested and raped a resident at the nursing home. The resident's estate sued the nursing home, and the jury returned a verdict against the nursing home. The nursing home appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in holding prior to trial that the nursing assistant had committed the molestation and rape while acting with the scope of his employment and erred in its evidentiary rulings regarding the admissibility of expert testimony. The Supreme Court remanded the case for retrial, holding that the trial court erred in (1) removing the scope-of-employment issue from the jury based upon its ruling on the nursing home's plea in bar, which it later implemented through its ruling on a motion in limine and through its jury instruction; and (2) excluding the nursing home's expert witness and in admitting challenged testimony of the Estate's expert witness. View "Our Lady of Peace v. Morgan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, second offense, upon Defendant's conditional guilty plea, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress. At issue in this case was whether, at the time Defendant was seized by detectives, the detectives had reasonable suspicion to believe that they were about to be assaulted with a weapon. Defendant argued on appeal that the detectives seized him in violation of the reasonable suspicion standard adopted in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, considering the totality of the circumstances, the detectives in this case had the same practical, experience-based concern for their safety as the police officer had in Terry, and therefore, the trial court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. View "Hill v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment entered by the circuit court on a jury verdict returned in favor of Plaintiff, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action against Defendant, alleging that he negligently performed a blepharoplasty procedure resulting in permanent injury to Plaintiff's right elevator muscle and leaving her functionally blind in her right eye. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded her compensatory damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion in liming and in permitting Plaintiff to cross-examine the defense medical expert regarding matters that were the subject of a disciplinary proceeding against the medical expert; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motions for mistrial and post-trial motions addressing its rulings on the consent issue and in refusing to provide instructions to the jury that consent was not at issue. View "Gross v. Stuart" on Justia Law